It’s midnight and you’re internet surfing. How likely is it that you’ll be watching a video – or two?

You’re thinking about buying a blender off eBay. Two listings are very similar – except one has a video of the blender being used, and one only has photos. How likely is it that you’ll buy from the listing with the video?

A friend on Facebook shares a status update about her going rappelling, a photo of her rappelling, and a video of her rappelling. Which is more likely to get your attention – and shares?

Video is where it’s at

If video is more attractive to you than the other web media out there, you’re not alone. Social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined.

There’s a lot of video being produced – and watched. 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week. While a good amount of that watching might be your friend’s rappelling adventure, cute cat videos or people exploding watermelons with rubberbands, there’s plenty of watching business and company videos as well. In fact, shoppers who view video are 1.81X more likely to purchase than non-viewers.

If you’re not creating video to help sell your products or services, you probably should be.

What should you create video about?

Before you whip out the camera and start shooting, spend some time (even if it’s just half an hour) developing a video strategy. What part do you want video to play in your content marketing efforts? What do you want people to do after they watch your video?

  • Buy a product?
  • Sign up to your email list?
  • Subscribe to your YouTube channel?
  • Think <fill in the blank here> about your brand?

Record your goals first. Then, for any video idea you have, you can check whether it maps to a goal. If it doesn’t, no matter how amazing the idea is, it won’t pay to invest time and effort in it.

Once you have your goals, here are topic ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Your products and services

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Just make sure you don’t overlook it in favor of more “creative” ideas. How important is it?

Almost 50% of internet users look for videos related to a product or service before visiting a store. If you don’t have any video content to find, your potential customers are going to be disappointed.

Written content alone doesn’t always cut it. 4X as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.

The goal of product- and service-oriented videos is almost always getting the customer to buy it (or at least get a little further down the sales funnel).

Video types that work well for products and services include:

Demo videos

If you sell motorcycles, a live demo is obviously the best. If you offer software programs, a screencast video is probably the most appropriate. Either way, show the parts of your offering that are the most helpful, compelling – or that the customer is most likely to have questions or concerns about.

Behind the scenes videos

Instead of showing your product, show the story behind your product. Tour the manufacturing process; show the work that went into it; highlight the people involved in providing or manufacturing it.

If your target market includes women (who are the dominant market force for everything from cosmetics to cars to financial services), make sure your video includes and highlights people. Don’t just show the product and its features – show people using the product. The human context is critical to resonate with women, explains marketing-to-women expert Marti Barletta.

Even if you’re showing a screencast video, try to get some people in there as well – relatable people with stories. Which brings us to the next topic:

Your customers

Use video to tell the stories of customers using your products or services to achieve the results they want. The more relatable the customers in your video are to your viewers, the greater an effect the video will have on their positive perspective of your company and desire to buy.

Last but not least, you can create videos about:

You!

Who are your potential customers doing business with? Let them get to know you and your team. Show your values and company culture – and how they play out in the day to day of your business. (Note: make sure you’re truly “showing” your values and culture and not just talking about them. No one wants to hear a talking head video about how amazing your company is.)

Places to market your videos

Once you have some powerful videos, what should you do with them? Here are ideas of places to use them:

On your website

Depending on what your video is about, you can put it on your products and services pages (if it’s about your offering or your customers) or on your About Us page (if it’s about you and your company). Your homepage could potentially have any type of video if it fits the context and design.

You can upload video directly to your site – or upload to a video sharing and hosting site like YouTube, and then embed it on your site. (For the majority of sites, the latter will be the way that is easiest and makes the most sense.)

Either way, you should certainly make sure your video is also…

On YouTube

YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine (second only to mighty Google itself) – larger than Bing, Yahoo!, AOL and Ask combined! Many, many people will go directly to YouTube to watch and search for videos.

When you do upload videos to YouTube, put thought into discovery and video click-through rate. Optimize your descriptions and tags. If you want your video to drive traffic to your site, put a link in the description, early enough that it will show up before the “read more” on the abridged description in the YouTube page itself.

On your landing pages

Including video in a landing page can increase conversion by 80%. Use videos to explain what your offering is, answer questions your prospect might have and tell success stories of other customers.

On Facebook

You can share YouTube links on Facebook posts – or upload video directly to Facebook. Direct video uploads tend to get 10x the reach of video links, so if you have the original video (which you should), it’s definitely better to upload.

Facebook also gives you the ability to create a live video, with the video recorded and available for replay (together with streaming comments, appearing as they appeared during the live recording).

Other video platforms

There are plenty of other social media platforms that were designed for video – or recently modified to accommodate video, including Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Periscope. We don’t recommend being there just for the sake of being there (you’re going to spread your resources thin, and better to focus on the places they’ll bring the most benefit), but if your target audience is there, it’s certainly worth setting up a presence.

In your email marketing

Email marketing is exceptionally valuable in delivering conversions, with a median ROI of 122% – more than 4x that of any other channel. Boost its power by using video. An initial email with a video receives an increase in click-through rate by 96%.

How to create video

Critical elements of successful video

Just like you spent some time planning out your video strategy, spend at least a little time planning out the video structure. Make sure you’re telling a story: your video should have an intro, a conflict, a build-up, a climax and a resolution. Any given element can take 5 seconds – and the whole video might only be a minute – but make sure the elements are there.

Your video needs good quality audio. Viewers will put up with fuzzy quality video if the audio is compelling – but great quality video with fuzzy audio is a big turn-off. If your built-in microphone doesn’t cut it, it’s likely worth investing in a separate mic.

While this is going to now sound like a direct contradiction, you video should also have the ability to be understood without sound, if it’s meant for Facebook. Videos uploaded to Facebook autoplay silently – and many are watched that way. In fact, 85% of videos viewed on Facebook are viewed without sound. So make sure to include captions or other overlay text. If you’re creative, you can take advantage of this for a laugh, like Hotels.com did in their silent video.

Don’t forget a measureable call-to-action. What action do you want your viewers to take? The call-to-action can be in the video itself – or in any descriptive text accompanying the video. Include that measurable call-to-action – and then make sure you measure it!

Technical stuff you need

Buffer put together a great guide to video marketing in general and the specific equipment you need. Here’s a brief summary:

  • Camera (newer version smartphones produce pretty high quality video, but you could go for camcorder if you want even better quality)
  • Tripod to hold camera steady (you don’t want your video looking like it was shot during an earthquake)
  • Separate microphones to make your audio really clear (see above about the importance of good audio)
  • Video editing software

Get busy, Hollywood

You’ve got your plan, your story and your tools so now you can create some viewer-grabbing, conversion-compelling videos. Off to La-La Land.